‘It tends to wear them down’: Here’s a look at Georgetown as it anticipates flooding

A steady stream of locals, first responder and visitors arrived in downtown Georgetown’s Joseph Rainey Park around lunchtime Tuesday. Some to see the commotion, others to join in the prayer service.

“Our prayer is you will still the water,” Maryville Pentecostal Holiness Church Pastor Tommy Cox told the crowd.

The waters from the rivers continue to rise and in days will significantly impact Georgetown County. More than 100 people gathered in the park Tuesday to pray for God to push the waters elsewhere.

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Bishop John Smith Jr. leads a prayer during a service in downtown Georgetown on Tuesday as floodwaters continue to rise Alex Lang alang@thesunnews.com

Several county pastors spoke during the gathering, and the message was clear: To ask God to direct the water away from Georgetown. If not, they understood He had a greater plan as locals weather the storm.

“If you accept him today, he might not change things,” Bishop John Smith Jr said. “But, he’ll change you.”

Evacuate flood-prone areas

Waters from record-setting rains during Hurricane Florence are traveling south and starting to impact Georgetown county.

Many shops in downtown on Front Street are protected by walls of sandbags and plastic over windows. The only people — except those that visited for the prayer service — were emergency responders and media. Much of downtown seems like a ghost town.

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Sandbags line business on Front Street in downtown Georgetown ahead of flooding. Alex Lang alang@thesunnews.com

Some of the biggest concerns in Georgetown are closing major routes into the county because of flooding, including U.S. Highway 17 and Highway 701.

County Spokeswoman Jackie Broach said they don’t have a timetable for closing 701 and are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

U.S. National Guard crews worked to install an AquaDam system and sandbags along Highway 17 near the bridge. The guard also has a boat ferry to shuttle goods into Georgetown if the road closes.

On Highway 701 near the Horry-Georgetown county line, the water from the Great Pee Dee River is just below the bottom of the bridge. A newer, and higher, bridge is under construction nearby. But, it won’t be usable if floods close 701.

The county opened two shelters for flood evacuees at Waccamaw Middle School and Georgetown High School.

Tideland’s Georgetown Memorial Hospital’s emergency room remains open, but inpatients are being transferred to other facilities.

Georgetown County residents can only watch and wait for the floodwaters to rise in the community. Georgetown City Mayor Brendon Barber said they are now in their fourth week of emergency operations and the flood anticipation is a strain for locals.

“It tends to wear them down,” he said.

The city, like the county, has spent days warning those in flood-prone areas that they should evacuate. Barber said locals need to listen to messages from the county’s emergency operations.

“We do not want to lose any lives,” he said.

Flooding starts in some communities

In Plantersville, in the northern areas of Georgetown County, several roads are closed because of flooding. Department of Natural Resources crews blocked some of the worst routes, including one with water deep enough to force a National Guard vehicle to turn around.

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A National Guard vehicle had to turn around when it came to these waters over a road in the Plantersville area of Georgetown County Alex Lang alang@thesunnews.com

Susan Richardson’s house sits next to two “road closed” barriers. She, her daughter and three grandchildren scurried to load a car with clothes, memories and other items from their Exodus Drive home. They plan to head to Myrtle Beach to wait out the flooding.

“I’m not going to sit here,” Richardson said.

In other floods, the water reached as high as her driveway, but hadn’t impacted their home. During Hurricane Hugo, Richardson lost pictures and other memories. Now, she doesn’t want to chance it with Hurricane Florence’s water just beyond the road’s bend.

She knows it’s “when” not “if” floodwaters reach her house.

“It’s a matter of time,” Richardson said.

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